Tony Pritzker’s philanthropic support and visionary leadership have improved the physical landscape of the UCLA campus, empowered students and faculty, enhanced the reach of both science and art, and broadened Bruin horizons in countless ways.
In celebration of his distinguished service, Pritzker was presented with the Fiat Lux Award, one of UCLA’s highest honors, at an Oct. 11 event at Pauley Pavilion that paid tribute to his remarkable, far-ranging Bruin legacy.
“I’m deeply honored tonight to welcome all of you to a celebration and recognition of the visionary leader, tireless force for good, honorary Bruin and very dear friend Tony Pritzker,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block in his introduction. “Tony believes in the power and promise of our university and has greatly placed UCLA on a strong foundation as our second century gets underway … Tony, from the bottom of my heart: Thank you for your many contributions, boundless energy, wonderful ideas, wise counsel and extraordinary effect on our campus.”
Pritzker has provided direct leadership to UCLA by serving as a board member for the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and the Hammer Museum, as well as co-chairing UCLA’s Centennial Campaign, which raised nearly $5.5 billion between 2014 and 2019 in one of the most ambitious fundraising efforts ever undertaken by a public university.
In addition, he has donated more than $115 million through his family foundation since 1996, including major gifts for environmental and sustainability research, arts education and outreach, and infrastructure renovations and student and faculty support. Pritzker has helped to break down silos on campus by supporting initiatives that encourage interdisciplinary collaboration, such as the Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children and Families and the new Initiative to Study Hate, and his generosity enabled the creation of UCLA’s globally resonant Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award, an endowed prize given annually to a young innovator achieving environmental solutions through research, art, engineering or business.
Speakers at the event, representing many of the areas of UCLA in which Pritzker’s gifts have made a difference, included faculty and administrative leaders from the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, the Samueli School of Engineering, the department of psychology, the Hammer Museum, UCLA Health, the David Geffen School of Medicine and the School or Education and Information Studies.
“The Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award is one of the most joyful times of the year for our institute,” said Marilyn Raphael, professor of geography and director of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, which manages the $100,000 prize. “Learning about the incredible work these young people are doing and watching new bonds being formed provides us with a source of much-needed hope and inspiration.
“Thank you, Tony, for that hope and for all the things you support. It inspires us as we work toward a harmonious future for ourselves and the natural world.”
Pritzker was nominated for the Fiat Lux Award by Miguel García-Garibay, senior dean of the UCLA College and dean of the division of physical sciences, and Tracy Johnson, dean of the division of life sciences, who both spoke at the event.
“Tonight is a tribute to Tony and how his world-changing influence has dovetailed with UCLA’s,” said García-Garibay. “He has personally enhanced the impact and excellence of our research and teaching while also furthering our mission to ensure a more sustainable, equitable society.”
“Tony truly epitomizes the highest True Bruin ideals, and we are so grateful for his inspiring partnership,” Johnson said. “One of UCLA’s greatest resources is the potential of our students, and the investment Tony has chosen to make in them — both in the department of psychology and across campus — is an investment in our shared future.”
Several of Pritzker’s friends and family members also spoke.
“Tony, I’m so proud of everything you have achieved and you deserve such congratulations,” said Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker in a pre-recorded message. “I especially want to acknowledge that you have been one of the most giving, decent, honorable, genuine people that I know in the world and I’m lucky to have you as a brother.”
Taking the stage to a standing ovation, Pritzker accepted his crystal award and promptly threw the notecards with his prepared speech over his shoulder.
“So many people across campus inspired me to get involved. It’s teamwork. We couldn’t raise money if we didn’t have the talented professors, researchers and students,” he said. “To paraphrase a quote from John Wooden, the main ingredient of success is the rest of the team. I’m humbled to accept this on behalf of everyone in this room and across campus who worked hard to make UCLA the No. 1 university.”
Joined on stage by Carol Block and Josh Rebholz, executive senior associate athletic director for external relations, Pritzker closed the evening by leading the room in an eight-clap, capped off with an explosion of blue and gold streamers.
Pritzker is the sixth recipient of the Fiat Lux Award, following Renee and Meyer Luskin in 2012, Arline and Henry Gluck in 2021, Jane Semel in August 2023, Laurie and Steven C. Gordon in September 2023 and Ronald A. Katz in October 2023.